Oh, sure, I picked them to win in 6 in the pool, but did you see my other picks? I picked WASHINGTON to win the cup. Clearly my head is not on straight.
The Senators are big underdogs for big reasons. The New York Rangers are a powerhouse, and Ottawa, frankly, is lucky to still be in the running. But one thing we've had going for us all season long is our willingness to not listen to the odds, and play hard no matter what anyone says. So, if the Sens are able to play strong and take this series, how are they going to get there?
Here are my keys to an Ottawa Senators victory:
Key #1: Beat Lundqvist Early
Henrik Lundqvist is certainly a Vezina nominee. If Quick weren't absolutely amazing in LA, I'd say he was a guaranteed winner, but the two of them are going to be 1 and 2 either way. There is no player on either team with a greater ability to win this series single handedly. That said, if Roberto Luongo can be panned for ONLY taking his team to game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, then discussions about Lundqvist's playoff record has to be legitimate too.
Lundqvist is a career 15-20 in the playoffs. His career playoff GAA of 2.60 and save percentage of .909 are passable numbers, but certainly not a reflection of what Lundqvist has been able to accomplish in the regular season. While I find it difficult to believe that after such a stellar season Lundqvist will suddenly forget how to stop pucks, I think there is some vulnerability to exploit here. If Ottawa can score some early goals in the game, he may fall in to a "Here we go again" mentality. Goaltending is such a mental game that if we can get in his head like that, it is a serious advantage. The opposite is similarly true. If Lundqvist has a big game in Game 1, he'll probably be able to carry that momentum straight into the second round.
Key #2: Big Play from Big D
With the playoffs comes an increase in the physical game. Up front, we've got some guys who are fairly safe bets to step up. We know that Neil will deliver. Likewise, we can expect that guys like Foligno and Smith will be right at home in that sort of atmosphere. But what can our D bring to the table?
Chris Phillips and Jared Cowen are very similar players on opposite ends of their career. One thing I have always loved about Phillips is the way he steps up the physical play in the post-season. I remember him being an absolute rock on the cup run. Cow-Cow, now in his first NHL playoffs, has a reputation for seriously stepping up in the post season at lower levels. He was apparently stellar in last year's Calder Cup run, and was similarly standout in the playoffs in Junior.
These two guys, though, will have a lot to prove this year. Phillips has put on a lot of mileage since the '07 run, and Cowen has yet to really play to that potential in the NHL. If these two start pounding in the playoffs, they can make things very hard on the Rangers' forwards.
Key #3: The Hurriscane Am I doing the "combine Turris with Hurricane" thing right?
Turris stepped up in a big way when Spezza was out for a game. It really shone a light on what he's capable of. It's now time for him to prove he can do it with Spezza IN the lineup.
When BM traded for Turris, one of the Paulrus' first quotes was that Turris had been Phoenix's best player against Detroit in the playoffs the previous year. That's the Kyle Turris we need to show up. A balanced attack will put Ottawa in a much stronger position to win, and that's why we need our #2 Centre.
Adding incentive for him, if Turris' play isn't 100% unimpeachable these playoffs, it is only a matter of time before the
Key #4: The Four Amigos: Spezza, Karlsson, Alfie and Anderson
I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this, because it's pretty much the only thing most of the news media spends time on, so I'm sure you can find the breakdowns of these four elsewhere. Put simply, if any of these 4 have a bad first round, I can't see them having a chance to redeem themselves in round two. The old cliche stands, our best players have to be our best players.
There they are, Spez_Dispenser's keys to a first round victory. I could be wrong about all of them, but nevertheless, I feel if all 4 of these things are accomplished, we will be in a strong position to take this series.